man holding chalk board with guilty word written

OneCoin co-founder pleads guilty to operating Ponzi scam, faces 40 years in US prison

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) has secured a guilty plea from one of the co-founders of OneCoin, a digital asset scheme that defrauded investors of nearly $4 billion.

Karl Sebastian Greenwood pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges in connection with OneCoin. With the wanted Ruja Ignatova, Greenwood misled investors by saying that OneCoin was poised to become the leading virtual currency in the world.

“In fact, OneCoin was entirely worthless. Greenwood’s lies were designed with one goal, to get everyday people all over the world to part with their hard-earned money — real money — and to line his own pockets to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said.

Court documents reveal that Greenwood served as OneCoin’s “global master distributor” and was the head of the multi-level marketing scheme, earning GBP20 million each month. Email correspondences with the wanted Ignatova revealed that from the onset, the duo had no plans to invest in digital assets.

OneCoin did not have any distributed ledgers and was also not mined, contrary to the message given to investors. “We are not mining actually – but telling people shit,” Ignatova wrote in an email to Greenwood.

The duo was also involved in price manipulation of OneCoin tokens which they referred to as “trashy coins.” Greenwood and Ignatova were shown to have discussed an exit strategy as early as 2014 with a plan to “take the money and run and blame someone else for this.”

Greenwood was arrested in Thailand in 2018 and has been in custody ever since. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 5, 2023, and experts suggest he could face up to 40 years for his role in the scheme.

The final piece of the puzzle

Law enforcement agencies have apprehended nearly all Ignatova’s lieutenants, with some fighting extradition to the U.S. However, Ignatova’s trail is running cold, with security outfits unable to apprehend her after nearly five years on the run.

Ignatova was included in the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List in June 2022, while Interpol, Europol, and German national police teamed up to launch a massive manhunt for her. A $100,000 reward has been announced for anyone with any information leading to her arrest.

Law enforcement agents say Ignatova was last seen in 2017 aboard a commercial flight from Bulgaria to Athens, Greece, before she disappeared. Investigators believe that Ignatova may have received help from collaborators in Athens to facilitate her disappearance.

Follow CoinGeek’s Crypto Crime Cartel series, which delves into the stream of groups—from BitMEX to Binance, Bitcoin.com, Blockstream, ShapeShift, Coinbase, Ripple, Ethereum, FTX and Tether—who have co-opted the digital asset revolution and turned the industry into a minefield for naïve (and even experienced) players in the market.

New to Bitcoin? Check out CoinGeek’s Bitcoin for Beginners section, the ultimate resource guide to learn more about Bitcoin—as originally envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto—and blockchain.

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